Full House At London’s Bolivar Hall For Victor Jara Concert:

On 16th September 1973,Victor Jara  –  poet, singer / songwriter, theatre director and supporter of the democratically-elected President, Salvador Allende – was killed by the military regime which had taken over Chile in a coup just five days previously.In May 2009, an ex-Army conscript was charged with Jara’s murder and the senior officer who fired the first shot was also subsequently identified. On December 5th 2009, the singer’s remains were re-buried in a massive funeral attended by thousands at the “Galpon de Victor Jara” in Santiago. On March 11th 2010,. Sebastian Pinera  succeeded  Michel Bachelet as  President – the fifth to be freely voted in since the fall of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990. A great deal has changed in Chile – but the inspiration evoked by Victor Jara’s life and music has not been dimmed by the intervening 37 years. On the contrary, he has become more of an icon and legend than ever – as witnessed by the large number of concerts that take place annually around the world in his honour and memory.

It was thus no surprise that the Bolivar Hall event on February 12th ( the first there this year) was totally packed. The occasion was organized by the “Movimiento Cultural Amigoartista” and introduced throughout by the MCA’s John Cuevas (Chile) and Peter Godfrey (UK). They both later also contributed with guitar & vocals to an evening which was scheduled to last about two & half hours ( including an interval for wine and empanadas) but over-ran for an additional 60 minutes. Most of the participants were Chileans based either in or near London . First on to the stage, however, were the duo ‘Pajarillo Vasko’ whose rousing renditions were well received by an audience which was clearly keen to join in as well as listen. They were followed by the first of the four poets (Eduardo Embry) invited to appear. The other three were Alfredo Cordal , Roberto Rivera and Peruvian guitarist/singer Juan Calle.

The special guest was Alejandro Reyes, who prefaced his performance with a moving recollection of “the man I knew personally”, the good friend with whom he played music. “The way Victor died turned him into a symbol, a banner: Unlike most of our heroes, he survives with his own music”. Reyes modestly portrayed himself as “a type of relic,’saint’s bones’, an old man who was young when Victor was young”. They were the first Chilean group to adopt an indigenous name: ’Cuncuman’, which they started to use after two years together. They were “ the direct children of those hugely important women, Margot Loyola and Violeta Parra, who gave us and Chile so much.”  The 1950’s – said Reyes- saw the maturing of a cultural movement which appeared to herald the imminent triumph of socialism. They interpreted this as a “recovery of our identity”, though in retrospect it was more of a “reconstruction”. He drew a parallel with  “the Latin America we have recently discovered” .

After Reyes came a succession of other well-known UK Latin-American musicians, among them:  Patricia Pons, Jorge Morales, Elias Madrid, MarcoValencia, Fernando Torres (all Chilean); Milton Flores (Bolivia) ; the Kausary Band’s Johnny Rodriguez (Peru) with a virtuoso display on the flute & panpipes. Also featured was Tony Corden ( guitar & vocals), organiser of  “The Dream Lives On” Festival (“El Sueno Existe” /  “Mae’r Freuddwyd Yn Fyw”) held in Machynlleth, Wales, to “explore the place of indigenous and minority language cultures in the modern world”. All the time on the wall behind were the flickering black & white images of Victor Jara in private, in public and in concert, interspersed by scenes from September 11th 1973 of  the  tanks rumbling through Santiago and the Chilean Air Force bombing ’La Moneda’ Presidential palace. The concluding ‘star turns’ were Vladimir Vega (Chile) and Silvia Balducci (Italy), whose dynamic repertoire of Chilean, Andean and Venezuelan rhythms prompted thunderous applause. Their final number was (what else?) perhaps Victor Jara’s most famous composition: “Te Recuerdo Amanda”.




Filed under: Music & Dance, Politics | Posted on February 16th, 2010 by Colin D Gordon

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